Donald Trump has been acquitted by the Senate in an impeachment trial for his role in the 6 January attack on the US Capitol – a verdict that underscores the sway America’s 45th president still holds over the Republican Party even after leaving office.
Rendering its judgment for history, a divided Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority required to convict the former president of high crimes and misdemeanors over his months-long quest to overturn his election defeat and its deadly conclusion on 6 January, when Congress met to formalize the results of the election.
After just five days of debate – the fastest presidential impeachment trial in American history – seven Republicans joined every Democrat in declaring Trump guilty on the charge of “incitement of insurrection”.
Trump was the first US president to be impeached twice and is now the first president to be twice acquitted. If convicted, he could have been barred from holding office in the future, but this decision now paves the way – should Trump want to run again – for another tilt at the White House in 2024.
Trump’s acquittal was never in doubt. Seventeen Republicans would have had to join all Democrats to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors. Several Republicans argued that the trial was unconstitutional, even though a majority of the Senate voted on Tuesday to proceed with the trial.